The former Uber engineer who blew the whistle on sexual harassment and discrimination at the company, has claimed she was stalked by private investigators and her family’s social media accounts were hacked, after she published an expose three years ago.
In the February 2017 blog, Susan Fowler revealed that her boss had been pestering her for sex and claimed other women had opened up about suffering in the misogynistic environment too.
The claims sparked an investigation and less than four months later co-founder Travis Kalanick stepped down from his CEO position and was replaced by Dara Khosrowshahi.
But Fowler became depressed and feared for her safety during the investigation, she says in new book, Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight For Justice at Uber.
Susan Fowler appeared on CBS This Morning Tuesday and opened up about how she believed Uber hired a private investigator to look into her past and follow her
Her February 2017 blog post about sexual harassment going on within Uber led to co-founder Travis Kalanick (left) stepping down and Fowler said Tuesday that when she asked new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (right) whether PIs were still investigating her, he said in a Twitter message, ‘I killed all that c**p’
Speaking about the claims made in her blog, Fowler explained about her former boss on CBS This Morning Tuesday: ‘He told me he was in an open relationship and he was looking for women to have sex with.’
When she sent screen shots from the company chat services, Uber admitted it was sexual harassment but didn’t want to punish her boss because he was a high performer.
They gave her two choices, she added in Tuesday’s interview: ‘You can either stay on his team and receive a retaliatory performance review because you didn’t accept his proposition and reported him to HR, or you can go to an entirely different team.’
In new book, Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight For Justice at Uber, Fowler describes becoming depressed. She was only comforted by the fact that if she was harmed or killed, ‘everyone would know exactly who was responsible’
Following the blog expose, Kalanick tweeted a link to Fowler’s article, saying: ‘What’s described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.’
But Fowler was scared into silence and became depressed after she noticed professionals following her and told CBS she ‘suspected it was Uber’.
In a Time op-ed published Monday, Fowler says that people – who were not reporters – began contacting her friends, family and acquaintances for information on her personal life and asking questions about her past.
Those people were contacting friends she hadn’t spoken to in years or an old neighbor she had as a teenager.
At one point her neighbor told her: ‘Someone’s digging really deep on you, Susan and it’s scary how far back they’re going.’
Fowler says in the Time article: ‘I didn’t know what they were looking for, and I didn’t know what they were going to find. It was terrifying.’
She says eventually, private investigators started reaching out to her directly.
‘I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize and I answered it. A woman was on the line,’ Fowler says. ‘She gave me her name, identified herself as a private investigator, claimed that she was working on a case against Uber, and asked me to help her.
‘I declined with a laugh, then did some detective work on my own; a quick Google search showed that the PI firm that she worked for had been hired in the past for cases in which people were trying to discredit victims of sexual misconduct.’
She started to notice professionals stalking her after the expose about her boss pestering her for sex and when asked by CBS host Gayle King who she thinks hired them, she replied: ‘I suspected it was Uber’
She claims people tried to hack her social media and email accounts and became aware after receiving messages for two‐factor authentication.
Fowler says that despite changing her password frequently and getting a new phone for 2FA texts, hackers still managed to break in and even her younger sister’s Facebook account was compromised.
‘The moment she told me that someone else had gotten into her account, I logged in and looked at the messages I’d recently sent her,’ Fowler tells Time. ‘I watched in horror as they went from “unread” to “read.”’
‘Nothing was as scary as being followed, which started happening shortly after I published the post that February. I noticed a peculiar car parked outside my house,’ she says. ‘When I walked from my house to the BART station on my way to the office, I’d often see the same car drive past me.
‘Whenever I left the office, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed. I told myself that I was imagining it.’
But a switch in her routine revealed more.
When she left for work in San Francisco early one March morning, a man jumped as if to be surprised that she was there.
‘I changed directions as I walked, going down side streets, and whenever I glanced back, I saw him following a short distance behind,’ Fowler recalls. ‘I eventually ducked into a Whole Foods, and watched as he walked past, sighing in relief. But when I went back out into the street, the man was leaning on a tree, looking down at the sidewalk.
‘I had to walk past him, and he followed closely behind until he moved ahead of me, stopped, turned around and looked right at me.’
Fowler says she ended up dashing into the train station to avoid him.
She was ‘terrified even more’ when she later learned that Uber had previously hired was Ergo, an opposition research company run by former CIA operatives.
On Tuesday, Uber denied hiring a PI, saying: ‘The company has no knowledge of ever hiring anyone to follow or personally investigate Susan Fowler’
‘A deep, aching terror fell over me as I prepared for the worst parts of my life to become public. Meanwhile, I was growing increasingly isolated,’ she tells Time.
The worry was heightened further as another former employee, Morgan Richardson, claimed an investigator had entered her apartment without her permission.
Uber denied that the man had gone inside her apartment but Fowler grew concerned: ‘If they did it to her, what would stop them from doing it to me?’
Fowler confided in a friend, ‘only to have our conversation parroted back to me by a reporter a few days later’.
She ‘felt sick to my stomach every day and had trouble sleeping’ and at one point it got so bad that she would ‘curl up into a ball on the floor and cry until I felt numb’ or ‘stand in the shower, turn on the water, cover my mouth with my hands and scream until my voice was hoarse’.
Fowler said she was only comforted by the fact that if she was harmed or killed, ‘everyone would know exactly who was responsible’.
Fowler has previously said she suspected Uber of hiring private investigators to watch her but the company denied it in 2017.
Tuesday, CBS shared a statement from Uber appearing to deny hiring a PI, saying: ‘The company has no knowledge of ever hiring anyone to follow or personally investigate Susan Fowler.’
But Fowler, now a New York Times Opinion editor, called their response ‘interesting’.
‘When I talked to the new CEO, over Twitter chat actually, and I asked whether the company was still having private investigators follow me, he said to me he “killed all that c**p” and was reassuring to me for two reasons,’ she said on CBS. ‘First it confirmed to that Uber had been doing this, and he had taken steps to stop it and I thought that was a very good sign.’
Uber did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Fowler opens up about being plagued by rumors she was paid by investors in competitors such as Lyft or Google, to write the blog post.
TRAVIS KALANICK’S DOWNFALL
February 19, 2017: Susan Fowler publishes a blog post accusing Uber of enabling misogyny and a hostile culture toward women.
She says other women have been victims at the company and claims female site reliability engineers dropped from 25 percent out of 150 when she started, to 3 percent when she left.
Uber appoints Liane Hornsey as Chief Human Resources Officer, board member Arianna Huffington and associate general counsel Angela Padilla to assist an investigation.
Travis Kalanick, founder and former chief executive officer of Uber Inc., center, stands on the trading floor during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, May 10, 2019
February 20: Uber hires Covington & Burling partners, former US attorney general Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, to look into the claims.
February 28: Uber asks senior executive, Amit Singhal, to leave for failing to disclose a sexual harassment allegation during his time working for Google.
March 1: Kalanick is caught on camera in a profanity-filled rant at driver Fawzi Kamel, who blamed the CEO for financial loss.
March 24: A report claims that five Uber employees including Kalanick visited a karaoke bar in Seoul known for offering escort services three years prior. A female employee who was with them said she complained to HR.
June 6: Uber fires 20 employees after law firm Perkins Coie completes a probe into 54 claims of harassment, 47 sexual harassment, 45 unprofessional behavior, and 33 bullying. They took action in 58 cases and no action 100 cases out of 215 reported.
June 7: Uber fires president of business in Asia, Eric Alexander, for mishandling a 2014 rape investigation in India where he reportedly showed the alleged victim’s medical records to Kalanick and senior vice president Emil Michael. Michael was implicated in the Seoul escort incident and was Kalnick’s number 2.
Kalanick attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019
June 12: Micheal – who reportedly suggested in a 2014 dinner that Uber dig up dirt on critical journalists – leaves. Since February marketing chief Jeff Jones, finance chief Gautam Gupta, and senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal have also exited.
June 14: Kalnick takes an indefinite leave of absence, saying it’s to mourn his mother who died the month before. Venture capitalist David Bonderman resigns from Uber’s board of directors and apologizes for interrupting board member Huffington in an all-staff meeting where he joked there likely t be more talking now that the board’s ratio of women had increased from 14 percent to 25 percent.
June 20: Uber announces ‘180 days of change,’ a campaign to revamp the company’s image. Among changes things at office level, the company adds improvements for drivers who said they were underpaid, including the option of tips and giving them injury insurance.
June 21: Kalanick resigns after five of Uber’s major investors seek his removal. He says it’s ‘so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight’. He stays on as a director on the board.
December 24, 2019: Kalanick resigns from the board, selling more than $2billion in shares.